(Recipe card and some content updated February 8, 2021)
Leave it to Boston to kick off the first week of the new year with over a foot of snow…
Could we have it any other way?!
Ironically I’m writing this post from Austin, Texas where I get to visit Michael and also begin the first weekend of a 4-part 10-month Universal Kabbalah “tree of life” journey with an amazing group of people. I guess I picked the right time to be away!
I’m so excited to finally be back in the swing of things and bring the “Recipe of the Month” blog back to life. 🙂
In lieu of snow, I figured it would be fitting to share with you my easy 4-ingredient recipe for these magnificent dark chocolate coconut “snowballs”…
If you were at the recent holiday open house at Skin to Soul in Woburn, or my family’s Christmas Eve dinner last month, or the 2016 Wellness Group I co-led with Dr. Wynne Huang at Caring for All… you probably already know what I’m talking about 😀
Cacao + Coconut… need I say more?!
I’d compare these snowballs to the Mounds bar most of us know and love (if you are a coconut person, that is). Their flavor profile is basically the perfect storm of rich decadent cacao, creamy coconut, and just the right amount of sweetness.
Like lots of my fellow dietitians (despite our reputation), I’m all about chocolate. And having dessert everyday. This is nothing new.
I’m also really passionate about the idea of “having our cake and eating it too” (I know I say that a lot).
What I mean by this is investing a little bit of extra effort that can go a very long way, allowing us get the best of both worlds: enjoying delicious gourmet style food while reaping the wonderful benefits of healthy living.
Who wouldn’t want that?!
It’s really fabulous to have amazing go-to chocolate treats that are easy to make, nourishing to the bone (literally… magnesium & phosphorous!) and will leave us vibrating with energy and vitality on a cellular level…
Not in a rigid or restrictive way, but in a fun and empowering way. 😉
Of course every food has something to offer and for that reason, as you probably could have guessed, I’m going to educate you on the health benefits of these chocolate coconut snowball treats. How could I forget?!
Let’s just say I almost titled this recipe “PMS Snowballs” (or something like that) because of their high content of iron, potassium and magnesium – minerals which have been shown to help prevent/reduce PMS symptoms (1, 2). And manganese, which seemed to help reduce mood swings and cramps, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center (3). Didn’t you ever wonder why so many women seem crave chocolate during a specific time frame every month?! It’s called intuitive eating… our bodies know what they need!
Cacao is the real deal!
Just two tablespoons of cacao powder offers a whopping 35% daily value of magnesium, 427 milligrams of potassium, 15% daily value iron, PLUS 13% daily value of zinc and over half a day’s worth each of copper and manganese. Not to mention 6 grams of fiber!
Oh… did I mention all of these micronutrients are happen to be vital for blood pressure, immunity, energy metabolism and more? #winning
This recipe calls for half a cup of cacao powder. I’ll let you do the math!
Now, let’s talk about coconut.
There’s been a LOT of controversy about coconut products being labeled “health foods” especially in the last year because of their high saturated fat content…
I’ll make it clear: I do NOT agree with the people who are hating on coconut and accusing its saturated fat content to be a culprit of heart disease…there’s actually a lot more to heart disease and the “diet heart hypothesis” that goes far beyond saturated fats.
Nor am I going to tell you that coconut is a “health food” that will make all of your problems go away.
(2021 update: We talk all about the full story behind nutrients and heart health in Module 4 of the Kitchen Alchemy online course which is offered 1x/year!)
In summary, like most things in life, the answers are often somewhere in the middle. Each of us are very unique from a biochemical standpoint, so remember that rarely can anything be considered an absolute truth when it comes to food and health claims. It’s all relative.
Quick tangent – saturated fats and heart health
Science is tricky because at any moment I could probably take a bunch of old school research articles from the last five or six decades (which many studies have debunked at this point) and compile them to create a very valid argument against saturated fats for the sake of heart disease.
However, if you look at the latest RECENT research, including this study by the British Journal of Sports Medicine which was published in 2017, you’ll see that saturated fat was found to not be the ROOT culprit of heart disease (4).
- Insulin resistance and/or some kind of chronic low-grade systemic inflammation seem to play a role, which makes sense because both of these issues have increased significantly along with the heart disease statistics over the last 50 years despite so many Americans cutting out fats and cholesterol from their diet (4).
For more details on saturated fat health claims being de-bunked, I recommend checking out this article by Gregory Katz, MD at the NYU Langone Online Journal of Medicine (5).
Anyways, I could go on – lots more to say about a very intensive and controversial topic – but next month (February) is National Heart Health Month so I will save the rest of my heart health food for thought until then!
Long story short, the coconut in this recipe serves to provide us with lots of flavor as well as some fats and fiber to keep us feeling satiated and sustained.
Plus, I think it makes for a great “snow” effect… don’t you think?
Lastly, real maple syrup!
You’ve probably seen maple syrup (not including Eggo & Mrs. Butterworths) make an appearance in a bunch of my recipes. I love it because it’s lower glycemic (has less of an impact on blood sugar) than most other sweeteners, but it still gives a very delicate sweetness and it’s seriously loaded with manganese! According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, manganese is useful in helping conditions such as PMS, arthritis, osteoporosis, diabetes and epilepsy to name a few! (3)
Okay, enough of my nerd rambling! Here’s the recipe:
Vegan Cacao Coconut Snowballs
- Measuring cups, mixing bowl, mixing spoon, aluminum foil /parchment paper and baking sheet
- 1/2 cup cacao powder
- 1/2 cup coconut oil
- 1/2 cup maple syrup GAPS: swap for raw honey
- 2 cups shredded coconut plus more for coating
- Melt coconut oil and then combine in a bowl with cacao powder.
- Add maple syrup then add 1 1/2 cups shredded coconut.
- Mix thoroughly until uniform.
- Coat a baking sheet with aluminum or wax/parchment paper.
- Roll "dough" into tablespoon sized balls, then roll in additional coconut.
- Place final snowballs onto baking sheet.
- Cover and store in fridge for up to a week, OR freezer for up to a month.
Happy baking, and I hope you have a safe, warm and cozy upcoming weekend!!!
- Walker AF, et al. (1998). Magnesium supplementation alleviates premenstrual symptoms of fluid retention. J Womens Health.7(9): 1157-65. Retrieved January 5, 2018 from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9861593
- Chocano-Bedoya PO, et al. (2013). Intake of Selected Minerals and Risk of Premenstrual Syndrome. Am J Epidemiol. 177(10): 1118–1127. Retrieved January 5, 2018 from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3649635/
- Ehrlich (2013). Manganese. University of Maryland Medical Center. Retrieved January 5, 2018 from: http://www.umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/manganese
- Malhotra A, et al. (2017). Saturated fat does not clog the arteries: coronary heart disease is a chronic inflammatory condition, the risk of which can be effectively reduced from healthy lifestyle interventions. Br J Sports Med. 51(15): 1111-1112. Retrieved January 5, 2018 from: http://bjsm.bmj.com/content/51/15/1111
- Katz G MD. (2013). The Complicated Story of Saturated Fat. Clinical Correlations: The NYU Langone Online Journal of Medicine. Retrieved January 5, 2018 from: https://www.clinicalcorrelations.org/?p=6993